BBB Warns Of Craigslist And eBay Car Scam

June 25, 2010

Recently, your Better Business Bureau was made aware of a scam using the classified advertising Web site, Craigslist, to lure potential buyers to a phony version of the online auction site, eBay. Buyers think they’re getting great deals on vehicles, but are actually paying for nothing.

Phony sellers place Craigslist ads for vehicles at reasonably low prices. Appearing legitimate, sellers claim all transactions are insured through eBay, protecting both buyers and sellers. Sellers express the need to sell vehicles quickly. Many claim they’re overseas and in desperate need of money, using high-pressure, aggressive language to convey their urgency.

Once buyers agree, they’re informed "eBay Transaction Services" will e-mail them to complete deals. E-mails generally contain transaction ID numbers and payment instructions for Western Union or MoneyGram.

Sellers explain once cars are purchased, money remains in escrow accounts until buyers are completely satisfied. Buyers are told they’ll be shipped the cars to inspect and test drive. They’re told the money will only be released to the sellers after the test drive’s completed satisfactorily. Unfortunately, the reality is once the money’s wired to the alleged escrow accounts, it’s long gone. Buyers never receive the vehicles and are unable to reach sellers.

A BBB employee responded to a Craigslist ad from a woman selling her car. She stated it was located in Atlanta, GA, crated and ready to be shipped. She claimed to prefer using eBay, saying it was safe for the seller and buyer and went on to explain how the process worked. The seller assured him the car was in immaculate condition and he’d receive it before money was released to her. If he wasn’t satisfied, the car would be shipped back at her expense and he’d get his money back.

The BBB employee informed the seller he’d be in Atlanta and requested to see the vehicle. She replied the car was sealed in a container to prevent damage. At that point, he declined the offer.

Popular sites, such as Craigslist and eBay, offer convenience and savings to those looking to buy or sell items online. However, they’ve also given scammers another outlet to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. Your BBB advises the following to avoid being scammed:

• Never wire funds to people you don’t know. Wire transfers are virtually untraceable. If this is the only form of payment accepted, reconsider the purchase.

• Meet sellers in person to inspect items or have a trusted person in the seller’s area check out items before purchasing. When meeting, never go alone and try to meet in a public setting.

• Never provide personal information, such as bank account or Social Security numbers, eBay or PayPal information.

• Be wary if communications are full of spelling and grammar errors.

• Don’t trust claims stating Web sites guarantee transactions. Generally, Web sites aren’t involved with transactions.

• Watch out for phishing e-mails requesting personal information or containing malicious viruses.

If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Steer clear of transactions you’re unsure about and contact your BBB to check out companies before doing business. Visit or call (609) 588-0808.

About Your BBB Serving New Jersey 

Your BBB, the leader in advancing marketplace trust, is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. Your BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 125 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than four million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit for more information about your BBB.